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Loane stands tall to earn a replay for Holy Trinity

MacLarnon Cup final: St Eunan's Letterkenny 2-6 Holy Trinity Cookstown 1-9

By John Campbell

A player who was only converted into a goalkeeper in January played a major role in earning Holy Trinity College, Cookstown another bite at the MacLarnon Cup cherry when he produced a wonder save deep into added time in yesterday's final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh.

The St Eunan's ribbons looked destined to be placed on the coveted trophy when their sharpshooter Conor O'Donnell found himself with only Conor Loane to beat yet somehow the agile custodian managed to beat out his thunderbolt drive.

It was perhaps poetic justice, too, given that the course of the game had ebbed and flowed with St Eunan's the better side in the first half - although without this being fully reflected on the scoreboard - while Holy Trinity found their feet after the break.

St Eunan's lost no time in drawing first blood, either. Scarcely four minutes had elapsed when Shane O'Donnell's shot came back off the post into the welcoming arms of centre-half-back Brian Diver, who promptly despatched the ball to the Cookstown net.

And with the Tyrone side's defence appearing distinctly porous, St Eunan's looked capable of building on their advantage.

Instead, it was Holy Trinity who somewhat against the run of play gained parity of esteem when Tiernan Mackle drilled in their goal.

With St Eunan's dominant at midfield where Padraig McGettigan proved a powerhouse, their attack was liberally supplied with possession but could only muster points from Conor O'Donnell and Shane McDermott that helped take them into a hollow 1-4 to 1-2 interval lead.

That superiority looked set to be cemented, however, when Conor O'Donnell swept in their second goal to put them clear at 2-5 to 1-3 but Holy Trinity had no intention of lobbing in the towel.

With Eoin Gallagher and Pauric Lagan making their presence felt, they drove forward in waves with the former joining Mark Devlin, Mark McKearney and Mackle in landing points.

Suddenly, St Eunan's found the match deadlocked at 2-5 to 1-8 and after Conor O'Donnell and substitute Conor Quinn traded points, the former was presented with the chance to seal the deal but opted to go for a goal only to be thwarted superbly by Loane.

If Friday night's replay offers the same level of skill and drama, then the image of Ulster colleges' football will be further enhanced.

St Eunan's Letterkenny: E O'Boyle; C O'Kane, A Gallagher, S McDaid; P McEniff, B Diver 1-0, J Kelly; S Doherty, P McGettigan; S O'Donnell 0-1, P J McBrearty, S McDevitt 0-2 (2f); C O'Donnell 1-3 (1f), O Purdy, C Finn. Subs: A Grant for McDevitt (43), R Hillferty for O'Kane (52), O Cassidy for Finn (56).

Holy Trinity Cookstown: C Loane; D Canavan, Tarlach Quinn, T McNamee; O Mulgrew 0-1, C Donnelly, M McKearney 0-1; E Gallagher 0-1, P Lagan 0-1; K Robinson, Thomas Mackle, S Murphy; Tiarnan Quinn 0-2 (1f) , Tiernan Mackle 1-1, M Devlin 0-1. Subs: E Devlin for Thomas Mackle (h/t), A Moore for Robinson (39), C Quinn 0-1 for Tiernan Mackle (56).

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).

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